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Pharmacy sales ban: Today cigarettes, tomorrow Twinkies
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I am not a big fan of cigarettes.

I was reminded of this Tuesday sitting at the traffic signal with the windows down when a guy pulled up to make a right turn and hung his cigarette out of his window. The putrid, acidy smoke immediately irritated me.

I rolled up my windows and left it at that.

I do not like second-hand smoke in public. I'm not as much worried about getting cancer as I am about the irritating smell and getting it on my clothes, in my hair, and on my skin.

You would think that I'd be a supporter of the latest trend to ban sales of cigarettes in pharmacies as well as to extend no-smoking bans into more public areas. I'm not.

As long as cigarettes are a legal substance, any efforts to monkey around with rules and regulations should be a universal approach such as has been done with alcohol and not not simply chip away at it ever so slowly.

The prime example is how that liberal bastion of personal rights - San Francisco - approaches the subject where everything goes unless it is something the powers that be view as politically incorrect.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors adopted a law that goes into effect Oct. 1 that is at the very least is discriminatory because it takes aim at the proliferation of chain stores they don't like - pharmacies such as Walgreens and Rite Aid. The law, in a nutshell, prohibits the selling of tobacco products in pharmacies on the premise "sick people" getting their prescriptions filled shouldn't be faced with cancer-causing products nearby.

Really. Does that mean they're going to rid the stores of all plastic items that many groups believe give off toxic cancer-causing fumes?

The absurdity of this pious claim is the San Francisco's ordinance doesn't affect grocery stores or big box retailers like Costco, Wal-Mart, and Target that also have pharmacies.

There is an ulterior motive here that the supervisors don't fess up to as the underlining reason they are targeting pharmacies. They have a storied history of going after chain stores such as Starbucks and national pharmacies. If that isn't a motivator, then why do grocery stores and big box retailers with pharmacies get a pass?

Then there is the San Francisco proposal that outlaws smoking in a number of public places including common areas of apartment complexes. Now get this: A landlord who catches a tenant violating the proposed law can have them evicted. This is in San Francisco where you can't evict someone for being a convicted prostitute.

I get the common area ban to be honest, but even so, I tolerated people I thought who were inconsiderate who would go on their front porches in the apartment complex I once lived in, lit up and let the prevailing breeze carry their smoke through my open windows. But that wasn't nearly as obnoxious as those firing up a BBQ who also has limited skills in controlling the smoke they were generating that did the same thing.

I simply shut my windows although it burned me that I couldn't enjoy fresh air in my own home because of a neighbor's actions.

San Francisco hasn't cornered the market on PC craziness. Boston is considering banning cigarette sales in pharmacies as well plus college campuses, hotels and - get this - cigar bars.

So instead of every city having their own little rules, why not treat cigarettes like the state treats alcohol? You can't drink in parks so why should you be able to smoke in them? You can't drink walking down the street, so why should you be able to smoke doing the same thing? You can't drink while driving a car, so how can you smoke doing the same thing?

You may think that is going too far but where do you think we're headed? The big difference is that we don't have a serious debate about what the ultimate goal is with all people impacted because we're slowly letting the majority - the anti-smoking folks - chip away ever so slowly at the "rights" of the minority - smokers.

Expecting politicians, though, to have the guts to be completely upfront about their agendas is akin to asking Phillip-Morris to stop making cigarettes voluntarily. It just isn't going to happen.

And if we're now hell-bent in sending the right message when it comes to the sales of cigarettes, why not do statewide rules on the type of businesses where they can be sold much like alcohol? Any place that sells "pharmaceuticals" including over the counter such as convenience stores perhaps should be included in the ban as well.

If any of this strikes you as ludicrous, you haven't seen anything yet. If the PC crowd succeeds in whittling away at the rights of smokers in such a manner, you can bet your last calorie that those who consume "junk food" are next. After all, we can't have a sick person at a pharmacy facing heart-clogging food sitting nearby such as Twinkies, can we?

Personal responsibility is no longer a standard for behavior in this country.

George Orwell would be proud.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail